Baked Tilapia Fillets in Lemon-Soy Vinaigrette

When I used to live in Brooklyn there was a great farmer’s market in my neighborhood on Saturday mornings.  I would get up early, hit the gym, and on the walk home pop into the market and pick up fresh produce and flowers.  There was also a family stand there that sold fresh caught fish which used to intimidate the heck out of me until I realized that fish is the easiest thing on earth to cook.  I found one stellar flounder recipe that I would make frequently back then and had completely forgotten about it until I found myself with tilapia in my freezer leftover from my fish taco experiment.  Tilapia is a white fish just like flounder so I figured it would work and it sure did.

Prep time takes all of 4 minutes and the fish only needs to bake for about 7 minutes and voila, there you have it.  Dinner in under 15 minutes.  Way better than takeout!

Baked Tilapia Fillets in Lemon-Soy Vinaigrette (adapted slightly from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 6-ounce tilapia fillets (can also use flounder as recipe originally intended)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Arrange fillets in a ceramic or other baking dish just large enough to hold them in one layer.  In a small bowl combine the garlic, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.  Whisk in oil until emulsified and pour vinaigrette over fish.

Bake fish in middle of oven until just cooked through and no longer translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

Cinco de Mayo fish tacos for you

Yesterday I felt like I discovered a new world.  I knew I wanted to make fish tacos for Cinco de Mayo and needed to stop at a Mexican grocery store to pick up a few of the ingredients, namely “crema,” which is Mexican sour cream.  (It’s like traditional sour cream except it’s a little thinner and has more salt.)  I popped into a little Mexican mercado I had passed before and in the back of the store which was otherwise like any other small grocery store there was a team of people making fresh corn tortillas and serving up a variety of meats.  It smelled amazing.  You had the option to buy the tortillas and meats by the pound to take away or you could order food to stay and eat in.  Yes please!  So for lunch I had tacos carnitas y barbacoa with a tamarind soda for less than $5.  Gotta love that.  But I digress.

Last week a coworker passed me the following recipe for Baja Fish Tacos saying she thought I might like them, and boy was she right!  Don’t let the length of the recipe intimidate you– it was so simple and fast to prepare.  There are several components: the sour cream, the pico de gallo, the slaw, and of course the fish itself, and you could skip any of the first three, but I don’t recommend it.  The pico is a little spicy, the slaw a little sweet, and the crema the perfect salty cooling balance.  The recipe calls for mahi-mahi but you can use any flakey white fish.  I used tilapia based on my coworker’s suggestion and it was great (and less than half the price of mahi-mahi.)

And make sure to enjoy with a cerveza!

Baja Fish Tacos (adapted slightly from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 pound mahi-mahi, cod, tilapia or other white flakey fish (I used tilapia)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt, to taste
  • 8 corn tortillas, 6 inches in diameter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place corn tortillas in aluminum foil and sprinkle with a few drops of water before sealing.  Place wrapped tortillas into oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Combine the oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic, and salt. Coat the fish with the marinade.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Place fish, one fillet at a time in heated skillet.  Cook for 4 minutes on one side and then flip over and cook for 2 minutes more.  Flake fish and place in each tortilla, and top with the Southwestern Slaw and Chipotle Pico de Gallo. Add a dollop of Mexican Crema, fold in half, and serve immediately.  (See below for recipes.)

Southwestern Slaw (from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 cups fine-shredded green cabbage
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced jalapeños
  • 2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
  • Salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients. Allow the mixture to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours before serving.

Chipotle Pico de Gallo (from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 1 cup medium-dice tomatoes (seeded before dicing)
  • 4 teaspoons minced red onion
  • ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ canned chipotle pepper, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro chiffonade (cut into thin strips)

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The pico de gallo is ready to use now or it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Mexican Crema (from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • ½ cup Mexican sour cream
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice

Combine all the ingredients and mix well. The cream is ready to use now or it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

a meal Michelle Obama would approve of

I did a very bad thing last night.  For the first time in months I ate fast food.  I NEVER eat fast food but every now and again after a long week it just sounds good.  And even though yesterday was only Wednesday it had already been a long week and a few coworker/friends of mine and I decided that we needed to escape the office for a bit and indulge.  I’m feeling a little guilty (and tubby) this morning and decided to atone by posting on a very healthy meal I made over the weekend…

The healthy meal starts with lentils and you all know how I feel about lentils.  Delicious!

Then you add some carrots, garlic, and onions.  Sounds good so far!

While that was cooking I got started on a favorite side dish of mine that I learned from a friend who made it for a dinner she hosted years ago.  It involves spinach, raisins, pine nuts (I did not have any on-hand so substituted walnuts) and onions.  It’s tasty and healthy!

The combination is savory, sweet, salty, crunchy, and overall packed with things that are good for you.  I love it when things that are good for you actually taste good too!

Back to the lentil dish… it also involves pan-grilled salmon but this morning I realized that I did not get a photo of the actual salmon.  Oops.  The salmon is in the picture below but you can’t tell because I buried it with the cooked lentils and it turns out I was supposed to put the salmon on top of a bed of lentils.  I’m not running a restaurant here, people– it doesn’t always look pretty.  But it tasted pretty darn good and it almost makes me feel less bad about the chicken fingers, sweet potato fries, and custard/cookie dough concoction that I ate last night.  Almost.

Pan-Grilled Salmon Fillets with Lentils (adapted from recipe by Mark Bittman in “How to Cook Everything”)

Makes 2 servings

  • 1 cup green lentils, washed and picked over
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons mixed dry herbs (I used Herbs de Provence)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 center-cut salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, skin on (but scaled) or off, pin bones removed

Place lentils in a large, deep saucepan with water to cover.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 15 to 20 minutes, then add the carrots, onion, garlic, and herbs.

Continue to cook, adding water if necessary (keep this to a minimum), until lentils and vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes total.  Season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, and keep warm.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (I don’t own non-stick cookware so I put a little olive oil on a non non-stick skillet to coat the pan) over high heat for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle the bottom of the skillet with coarse salt, then add the salmon, skin side down.  Cook over high heat until well browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Flip the salmon and cook 1 additional minute.  Place about 1 cup of lentils in the center of each of four serving plate and top with a salmon fillet (I mistakenly did the opposite.  It will be much more attractive if the salmon is on top!)

Spinach with Pine Nuts and Raisins (found at www.epicurious.com, original recipe by Joyce Goldstein in “Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen”)

6 servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I did not have pine nuts on hand so substituted walnuts, I have also used pecans in the past and they were good too)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside. Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins, and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.